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BAPTISMAL TUBS

Before the 6th century, the baptisteries were built as separate structures. Mostly adults were baptized. After the 9th century, the large baptisteries were no longer needed as the infant baptism became the rule for the Roman Catholics.

A Roman baptistery was excavated in Ljubljana. This attests to the early spread of Christianity in present day Slovenia. From the works of Victorinus Petaviansis of Roman Petovia (present-day Ptuj), it can be assumed that Nestorian Christianity was practiced alongside the Mithraism. Mithraic temples were discovered in Ptuj and in Bela Krajina (close to Pleterje).

We can imagine that the Slavonic Church of St. Methodius could not afford ornate baptisteries. According to the biography of St. Methodius, Methodius once baptized a man in a local creek. The focus of the Slavonic Church was more on religious literature then on fancy buildings and flashy church vestments. In medieval manuscripts, there are several pictures of Slavic princes being baptized in a large tub.

Although the containers in the Vojnich Manuscript show some similarity with the tubs and barrels used for medieval adult baptism, I do not believe this is the case. It is possible, though, that the tubs are serving as identification that the persons were baptized, perhaps in a Slavic ritual, in simple tubs. However, for some strange reason, at least one medieval artist depicted French king Clovis being baptized in a simple wooden tub (picture in top left corner), in a similar way the Slavic princes were baptized (pictures on the left).

The tubs in the zodiac pages look like the low, pleasantly decorated baptismal tub, which could allude to the people placed in the calendar, were baptized (probably saints).

There are some medieval depictions of baptism in the baptismal font, the kind used for the infants. By then, the adult baptism was shunned, because it was performed by heretical Bogomils and other religious groups the Church considered heretical.

Could the author of the VM get the idea for his pictures in such medieval depiction of the baptism?

Each of the above picture from the VM could inspire imaginative observer to tell a different story. The labels besides some pictures can point us into the direction of what the author had in mind. The lack of Christian images is suggestive of the author being to some degree at odds with the official Church. The tubs and setting display a lot of variety which is suggestive of the many different interest of the author.

This, too, is suggestive of Nicholas Kempf being the author. Since there were many Hussite refugees in the Slovenian monasteries (the prior in Jurklošter before him was a Czech), Kempf would have been acquainted with the simplicity of the Slavic church. The Bogomils, Waldensians, and Hussite were all calling for Church simplicity and repudiated the wealth of the higher clergy. They were also promoting books, prophesy and preaching.

As already mentioned, the Spiritual baptism in its original meaning was the reference to a genuine mystical experience and the commemoration of it. In the Old Testament, the mystical religious experience is referred to as a “vision” or “hearing a Voice of God”. Some also call it a mystical death, because in such religious ecstasy, one loses the conscious self- awareness. According to Kempf, there are four ways to attain a genuine religious experience (the author of the Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkranz also recognizes four ways!). Even contemporary psychologists agree that genuine mystical experience is a grace and cannot be produced by will alone. Sometimes, like in case of St. Paul, it happens in a life-death situation, sometimes, it happens after intense meditation and fasting. An inferior mystical experience can be achieved with various intoxicants, such as alcohol, marihuana, magic mushrooms.

Examining mystical traditions in other cultures is a natural response of intellectual who had genuine mystical experiences. This was particularly important in the Middle Ages when the political and religious situation produced a lot of genuine and false mystics.

In his writing, Kempf makes a distinction between a genuine mystic, who does not want the attention and veneration, as is often the case when somebody announces his or her visions. As a mystical writer, he examined other traditions, particularly the Greek tradition. As a philosopher challenging the Church on morality, he would have read the Plutarch’s Morelia. The Žiče (Seitz) Charterhouse had the second largest library in Europe, and Kempf would have had no problem borrowing a book there, since the four Slovenian monasteries were connected.

Kempf was not alone in being able to contemplate the symbolic meaning of the biblical writings, religious rituals, and secular literary writing. The writers of Grail romances before him had attempted to do the same.

The females in strange contraptions in the VM could be Kempf’s response to the illustration Eggman Le livre de Lancelot du Lac & other Arthurian Romances, Northern France ca. 1275-1300 Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, MS

This is the only image I was able to find that slightly resembles the figures in strange contraptions in the VM.

Obviously, a lot of metaphysical wisdom is necessary to interpret this picture.  Is it an egg or is it a host that the man is lifting up? Are those eggs he is sitting on? Or is it an abstract idea that the medieval philosophers were concerned about. Which came first: the egg or the hen? Religion or art?  The institutional clerics or the prophets?

Both, religion and art, are creating (hatching) spiritual human beings that distinguish themselves from the creatures of the animal world. They do that by uplifting the individuals of outstanding qualities. Both are concerned with giving people spiritual guidance and provide continuity of teaching and prophesy.

I would not have found this picture if I had not previously figured out that the images on VM page 77 were related to Delphic E. It was the image of the Delphic E that led me to read Plutarch’s book Morelia which enabled me to understand what the pedestal image in the VM means and how it relates to mystical experience (I will explain this in greater detail in a separate article).

The repeated depictions of nymphs elevated on the pedestal in the VM suggest that the author was preoccupied with the idea of prophesy and spiritual cleansing.

The above drawings in the VM beg for symbolic interpretation. The connection of physical and spiritual creation is indicated, as well as the mystical origin of these ideas. The mystical visions often combined ideas into a strange picture.

In his work Morelia, Plutarch explains the origin and ritual of the Delphic oracles. According to his story, a man had a mystical experience in a cave. After telling people about it, they came in droves there. Choas ensued as they had mass hallucinations. To solve this problem, the Delphians decided to choose a wise, well-educated young woman who would be a Pythia – a spokesperson for the oracle.

Plutarch is specially pointing out that genuine prophesy does not come from supernatural sources, but rather from knowing and understanding the past events, and applying them to the present and future.

In the Morelia, there is also a long explanation of the Delphic E.

Kempf, or any other mystic living in Slovenia, would have been able to recognize many Slavic words in the Plutarch’s story, from Pythia (meaning “the one asking questions”  (in Croatian, Pythia would be the noun of the verb PITATI – to ask).

Assuming that the VM was written in present day Slovenia (in Pleterje or Jurklošter), the author would have been exposed to Greek culture and Greek books. The Slovenian language could have offered him unique understanding of the ancient Greek names, such as Otisseus as a Migrant. ORACLE (Slovenian OREKEL – say about) sounds similar as the Slovenian word ‘OBREKEL’ – he said about.

Even in the Middle Ages, Slovenians liked to speak in parables and in symbolic poetic language. This was noted in one of the earliest dictionaries by Faučič, who pointed out many examples of sayings, proverbs and symbolic expressions.

St. John the Baptist was greatly venerated by Slovenians, particularly those who belonged under the Patriarchate of Aquileia. Besides St. Nicholas, most of the churches were dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The Carthusians often dedicated their churches to St. John the Baptist, or to the Virgin Mary. The Church in the Carthusian monastery at Gaming was called St. Mary on a Throne.

St. John the Baptist was a Jewish mystic who openly criticized King Herod. He was beheaded as a result. Since he baptized Jesus, he is also considered a Christian saint.

The early Christian writers had learned to use symbolic esoteric language for criticising the Romans. In this way, they not only saved their lives, but also preserved their work as well as the teachings of Jesus.

I suppose it would take a highly intellectual mystic and prophet to connect the picture of Eggman with Plutarch’s Morelia and his explanation of Prophesy, and to use that image in so many different ways. Nicholas Kempf would be acquainted with the modern philosophical trends and as a mystic, he would be capable of making such remote associations which are the hallmark of great art.

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